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Heating and cooling genetic samples with light leads to ultrafast DNA diagnostics

Five-minute DNA tests possible in a wide range of settings, from rural Africa to a hospital ER
August 4, 2015

This is an artist's rendering of photonic PCR on a chip using light to rapidly heat and cool electrons at the surface of a thin film of gold. This method yields gene amplification results in mere minutes, and promises to transform point-of-care diagnostics in fields as diverse as medicine, food security and evolutionary biology. (credit: Luke Lee's BioPOETS lab)

New technology developed by bioengineers at the University of California, Berkeley, promises to dramatically speed up the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) DNA test and make it cheaper and more portable by simply accelerating the heating and cooling of genetic samples with the switch of a light.

This turbocharged thermal cycling, described in an open-access paper published Friday July 31 in the journal Light: Science & Application,… read more

A precision brain-controlled prosthesis nearly as good as one-finger typing

My allow people with ALS or spinal cord injuries to communicate faster and more accurately
August 4, 2015

Brain-controlled prostheses sample a few hundred neurons to estimate motor commands that involve millions of neurons. So tiny sampling errors can reduce the precision and speed of thought-controlled keypads. A Stanford technique can analyze this sample and make dozens of corrective adjustments in the blink of an eye to make thought control more precise. (credit: Jonathan Kao, Shenoy Lab)

An interdisciplinary team led by Stanford electrical engineer Krishna Shenoy has developed a technique to improve brain-controlled prostheses. These brain-computer-interface (BCI) devices, for people with neurological disease or spinal cord injury, deliver thought commands to devices such as virtual keypads, bypassing the damaged area.

The new technique addresses a problem with these brain-controlled prostheses: they currently access a sample of only a few hundred neurons, so tiny errors in… read more

Unlikely graphene-nanotube combination forms high-speed digital switch

August 4, 2015

Hair-like boron nitride nanotubes intersect a sheet of graphene to create a digital switch. (credit: Michigan Tech, Yoke Khin Yap)

By themselves, graphene is too conductive while boron nitride nanotubes are too insulating, but combining them could create a workable digital switch — which can be used for controlling electrons in computers and other electronic devices.

To create this serendipitous super-hybrid, Yoke Khin Yap, a professor of physics at Michigan Technological University, and his team exfoliated (peeled off) graphene(from graphite) and modified the material’s surface… read more

Sleeping on your side may clear waste from your brain most effectively

Could reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological diseases
August 4, 2015

The brain’s glymphatic pathway clears harmful wastes, especially during sleep. This lateral position could prove to be the best position for the brain-waste clearance process. (credit: Stony Brook University)

Sleeping in the lateral, or side position, as compared to sleeping on one’s back or stomach, may more effectively remove brain waste, and could reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, according to researchers at Stony Brook University.

Stony Brook University researchers discovered this in experiments with rodents by using dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to image the brain’s glymphaticread more

Intracellular microlasers for precise labeling of a trillion individual cells

August 3, 2015

Massachusetts General Hospital investigators have induced subcutaneous fat cells in a piece of skin from a pig to emit laser light in response to energy delivered through an optical fiber (credit: Matjaž Humar, PhD, and Seok Hyun Yun, PhD, Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital)

Imagine being able to label a trillion cells in the body to detect what’s going on in each individual cell.

That’s the eventual goal of a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) study to allow individual cells to produce laser light. The wavelengths of light emitted by these intracellular microlasers differ based on factors such as the size, shape, and composition of each microlaser, allowing precise labeling of individual… read more

Obama signs executive order authorizing development of exascale supercomputers

A viable path forward for future HPC (high-performance computing) systems even after the limits of current semiconductor technology are reached (the "post-Moore's Law era")
August 3, 2015

Titan supercomputer (credit: ORNL)

President Obama has signed an executive order authorizing the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), with the goal of creating the world’s fastest supercomputers. The NSCI is charged with building the world’s first-ever exascale* (1,000-petaflops) computer — 30 times faster than today’s fastest supercomputer.

The order mandates:

  1. Accelerating delivery of a capable exascale computing system that integrates hardware and software capability to deliver approximately

read more

A high-performance single-molecule diode

The ultimate limit in electronic miniaturization just got a lot closer
August 3, 2015

Researchers from Berkeley Lab and Columbia University have created the world’s highest-performance single-molecule diode using a combination of gold electrodes and an ionic solution (credit: Latha Venkataraman, Columbia University)

A team of researchers from Berkeley Lab and Columbia University has created “the world’s highest-performance single-molecule diode,” using a combination of gold electrodes and an ionic solution.

The diode’s rectification ratio (ratio of forward to reverse current at fixed voltage) is in excess of 200, “a record for single-molecule devices,” says Jeff Neaton, Director of the Molecular Foundry, a senior faculty scientist… read more

Millennium Project releases ’2015–16 State of the Future’ report

August 3, 2015

2015-16 State of the Future

The Millennium Project released today its annual “2015-16 State of the Future” report, listing global trends on 28 indicators of progress and regress, new insights into 15 Global Challenges, and impacts of artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and other advanced technologies on employment over the next 35 years.

“Another 2.3 billion people are expected to be added to the planet in… read more

New supercapacitor design offers record high-energy storage

Rivals thin-film lithium ion batteries in energy density; potential uses include electric vehicles and defibrillators
July 31, 2015

Schematic representation of bilayer capacitor (not to scale). The gray discs represent aluminum electrodes. (credit: Yunsang Kim et al./ Advanced Energy Materials)

Using a hybrid silica sol-gel material and self-assembled monolayers of a common fatty acid, Georgia Tech researchers have developed a new supercapacitor material that provides electrical-energy storage capacity rivaling some batteries.

Capacitors can provide large amounts of current quickly (high power density), unlike batteries. So if this material can be scaled up from laboratory samples, devices made from it could surpass traditional electrolytic (high-capacity) capacitors for applications… read more

An incredible nanoscale 3-D voyage through a tiny part of the mouse brain

July 31, 2015

Synapses in contact with a dendrite (the large red object). The white dots are synaptic vesicles inside axons. (credit: N. Kasthuri et al./Cell)

Using an electron microscope, researchers have peered down inside the brain of an adult mouse at a scale previously unachievable, generating dramatic color images at 3-nm-pixel resolution. The research was published Thursday July 30 in an open-access paper in the journal Cell.

Focusing on a small area of the mouse brain that receives sensory information from mouse whiskers, the researchers built a system that automatically slices a subject… read more

Ebola vaccine found 100% effective in initial trial

July 31, 2015

The Ebola vaccine rVSV Zebov-GP is being prepared for injection (credit: WHO/S. Hawkey)

An Ebola vaccine known as VSV-EBOV, provided by Merck, Sharp & Dohme, has shown 100% efficacy in individuals, according to results from an interim analysis published (open access) today (July 31) in the British journal The Lancet.

“This is an extremely promising development,” said Margaret Chan, M.D., Director-General of the World Health Organization. “The credit goes to the Guinean Government, the people living in the communities and our… read more

How to tune graphene properties by introducing defects

July 30, 2015

Exfoliation setup. Inset: graphite electrode during exfoliation (credit: Mario Hofmann/Nanotechnology)

Taiwanese researchers reported today (July 30) in the journal Nanotechnology that they have developed a simple electrochemical approach that allows for defects to intentionally be created in graphene, altering its electrical and mechanical properties and making the material more useful for electronic devices and drug delivery, for example.

Current graphene synthesis techniques, such as chemical vapor deposition and reduction of graphene oxide, can only produce graphene with a narrow… read more

Memory problems? Go climb a tree.

Working memory capacity increase of 50 percent found in research
July 30, 2015

(credit: iStock)

Climbing a tree or balancing on a beam can dramatically improve cognitive skills, according to a study recently conducted by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Florida.

The study is the first to show that proprioceptively dynamic activities like climbing a tree, done over a short period of time, have dramatic working memory benefits.

Working memory (the… read more

Non-surgical electrical/drug stimulation helps patients with paralysis to voluntarily move their legs — a first

July 30, 2015

Range of voluntary movement prior to receiving stimulation compared to movement after receiving stimulation, physical conditioning, and buspirone. The subject’s legs are supported so that they can move without resistance from gravity. The electrodes on the legs are used for recording muscle activity. (credit: Edgerton Lab/UCLA)

In a study conducted at UCLA, five men who had been completely paralyzed were able to move their legs in a rhythmic motion thanks to a new, noninvasive neuromodulation and pharmacological procedure that stimulates the spinal cord.

The researchers believe this to be the first time voluntary leg movements have ever been relearned in completely paralyzed patients without surgery. The results are reported in an… read more

Scientists successfully edit human immune-system T cells

New CRISPR research has implications for autoimmune diseases, AIDS, and cancer
July 29, 2015

Cas9 edit

In a project led by investigators at UC San Francisco , scientists have devised a new strategy to precisely modify human immune-system T cells, using the popular genome-editing system known as CRISPR/Cas9. T cells play important roles in a wide range of diseases, from diabetes to AIDS to cancer, so this achievement provides a path toward CRISPR/Cas9-based therapies for many serious health problems, the scientists say.… read more

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